Over the past two decades, Simone Leigh has created an expansive body of work in sculpture, video, and performance that centers Black femme interiority. Inflected by Black feminist theory, Leigh’s practice intervenes imaginatively to fill gaps in the historical record by proposing new hybridities. In 2022, the ICA commissioned Leigh to represent the United States at the 59th Venice Biennale from April 23 to November 27, 2022. Entitled Sovereignty, the exhibition featured a new body of work that collectively extends the artist’s ongoing inquiry into the theme of self-determination. Many of the featured sculptures interrogated the extraction of images and objects from across the African diaspora, exploring the potential for hybrid relationships and associations in the meeting between disparate geographies, traditions, and aesthetics within the work. Of the works presented in Sovereignty, the large-scale ceramic sculpture Jug references numerous investigations Leigh has made throughout her artistic practice. The work draws primarily on the face vessel, a type of object made in the American South by both enslaved and freed African American artisans in Edgefield District, South Carolina, a region renowned for the production of stoneware. These enigmatic face vessels might have functioned in ritual or religious practices, or as coded objects that disguised hidden meanings. For this interpretation, Leigh rescaled the traditional face vessel in the five-foot-tall Jug, the surface to which she has appended forms resembling cowrie shells. One of the world’s oldest forms of currency, cowrie shells are a significant recurring motif in Leigh’s practice, from her earliest table-top ceramics to her monumental suspended sculptures and scaled raffia works. In modeling the face of her large-scale jug with the cowrie visage, Leigh fuses numerous aesthetic languages and homages to ceramic traditions in a relationship that crosses time and history.